A research team in Portugal and the US has found for the first time nicotine receptors in the taste buds. In fact, although most of the toxicity of smoking is linked to other components, it is nicotine that leads to smoking addiction and until now it was believed that this substance had to migrate into the brain to bind its specific receptors and provoke its effects.
Asymmetry is crucial for the heart proper functioning, and now, scientists from the Institute Gulbenkian of Science in Portugal and Harvard University, have discovered that a family of genes, called Nodal, is crucial determining this asymmetry by controlling the speed and direction of the heart muscle cells during embryonic development.
The finding, by helping to understand how the heart develops, is a step closer to intervention and is of particular importance if we consider that problems in heart asymmetry are the main cause of heart congenital diseases that can affect as much as 8 out of 1000 newborns. The research appears in a special December issue of the journal Development Dynamics 1 dedicated to left-right asymmetry development.
The Iberian Lynx is now the most endangered cat in the world with only about 160 animals remaining in the wild and, despite extensive research and millions of Euros spent in decades of protection, nothing seems capable to stop this decline.
Scientists in Cambridge, UK, using a mouse with a human chromosome in its cells, discovered that gene expression, contrary to what was previously thought, is mostly controlled by regulatory DNA sequences.
Mice and humans (and most vertebrates) share the majority of their genes but a distinct gene regulation – so, when and where these shared genes become activated – assures their many individual characteristics, and knowledge of this regulation is crucial if we want one day to be able to control gene expression.
A new improved gene therapy can be the first treatment for Machado-Joseph disease
Portuguese, Swiss and French researchers show, for the first time, that is possible to inhibit, in a living organism, the mutated copies of a gene without affecting any existing normal copies of the same gene. The research, to appear in the 8th of October edition of the journal PLoS One, describes how scientists successfully used the approach in rats to reverse the symptoms of Machado Joseph Disease (MJD), an untreatable and potentially fatal neurodegenerative disease.
Religious emotions and beliefs have often been linked to a capacity to deal with pain, as those
images of Philippine men being willingly crucified during religious festivals so well demonstrates. But although changes in pain sensitivity during a religious experience are well documented, the exact psychological or/and neurological reasons of the phenomenon are unclear and, as such, have now become the aim of an investigation by a group of scientists, philosophers and psychologists from the University of Oxford.
The research, to be published in the next edition of the journal Pain, reveals for the first time that religion-associated pain resistance is linked to the activation of the brain right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), an area associated with both cognitive down-regulation of pain and reassessment of the emotional meaning of an experience – for example by giving a neutral or even positive meaning to a noxious experience, and so making it much easier to cope with.